Mind Body Therapy

Restorative practices are key to maintaining and creating health. Our bodies are designed to regularly have deep rest in order to reset the nervous system, flush the effects of stress, and rebalance internal processes, which all supports health and healing on a deep, fundamental level. Without enough restoration, our bodies become locked into chronic stress patterns that create dysfunction in our physical, mental, and emotional lives.

Mindfulness principles support restorative practices, which in turn creates a cascade of health benefits in the body. As the body moves into rest and restore mode, the heart rate will slow, the breath will deepen, and blood pressure will decrease. Common areas of muscular tension like the diaphragm, pelvis, and neck and shoulders, will begin to relax and release. As the musculoskeletal tension along the spine releases, the vertebrae will be able to make subtle adjustments toward alignment. The nervous system will also re-regulate itself, which helps to turn down the volume of pain signals, and other systems of the body like digestion, circulation, and circadian rhythms, will also reset and rebalance.

Mind Body Therapy uses this effectiveness of mindfulness and restoration to address specific health conditions.  At Ha.Lé, we always begin with a conversation, and the initial conversation for Mind Body Therapy will assess your health condition and personal goals. We will also seek to understand your current physical, mental, and spiritual capacity. This allows us to create a personalized mind body practice for you that applies mindfulness principles to optimize your health.

Your personalized mind body therapy practice can provide specialized techniques for a variety of specific health conditions. It can help with chronic pain from musculoskeletal conditions, and cardiovascular disease including heart failure and coronary heart disease. Mind Body Therapy can also address conditions like diabetes mellitus, obesity, anxiety, depression, post traumatic disorder, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

Mind Body Therapy is the application of principles of mindfulness for wellness and specific health conditions. Mindfulness techniques are able to turn the complex systems of the body toward restorative states, which creates space for deep healing and rebalancing.

Dr. Gurjeet Birdee is a researcher, scientist, physician, and mind body therapist. He is now available for Mind Body Therapy sessions at Ha.Lé.

From Self-Criticism to Self-Compassion

Self-Criticism refers to the voice inside our head that criticizes our thoughts, actions, and/or appearance. We use self-criticism as a way to motivate ourselves to drive forward, do the right thing, or stay safe. However, it turns out this is not an effective way to change our own behavior, and we often use this voice to say mean things to ourselves that we would not be comfortable saying to others.

Research conducted at Stanford University shows that self-criticism is more destructive than helpful. The more people criticize themselves, the slower their progress toward a goal, and the less likely they are to ever achieve it. Looking at the neuroscience of self-criticism, it actually shifts our brain into a state of self-inhibition and self-punishment. This causes us to disengage from our goals because we feel threatened and demoralized.

In the end, self-criticism makes us more likely to end up stuck in a cycle of procrastination and self-loathing. Even when we are able to push through this, it still saps emotional energy that could be used more productively.

Self-compassion is the alternative to self-criticism. It improves overall mental health, making you more likely to be happy, resilient, and optimistic about the future. It is a way for our inner voice to become more of a supportive friend, helping us feel safe and accepted enough to see ourselves clearly and make the changes we need to make to become healthier and happier.

There are 3 main components to self-compassion. Self-Kindness refers to the tendency to be caring and understanding, and to offer yourself soothing and comfort in the face of suffering. A sense of Common Humanity means recognizing that all humans are imperfect, and we all make mistakes, which helps put things in perspective. And finally, Mindfulness is a form of self-awareness that sees painful feelings in a clear and balanced manner, neither ignoring nor obsessing about what you don’t like about yourself.

Combining these three things creates self-compassion. This allows you to be easier on yourself when your suffering occurs through no fault of your own. It also helps you support yourself when the external circumstances of life are simply too painful or difficult to bear, and eases the suffering that you cause for yourself.

Moving out of self-criticism to a place of self-compassion is a gentler and more effective way to reach your goals and become the person you would like to be. It creates the feeling of internal safety that allows us each to blossom and thrive, growing in the direction we choose for ourselves.

What is Stress Management?

Stress is built in to being human, as we manage challenges and respond to problems. It is a fundamental part of being alive. It is also a whole-body event, with physical, mental, and emotional effects. Our bodies are designed to experience stress as a temporary state, and then return to rest and relaxation mode. However, modern life often creates chronic stress, where the body and mind do not fully reset.

Stress Management creates a set of tools that allow us to intentionally counter the effects of chronic stress in our bodies and minds. High levels of chronic stress put our wellbeing at risk. These fight or flight responses can reduce quality of sleep, slow healing times, affect digestion, strain heart health, and weaken your immune system. Because stress is a survival response, the body is basically pulling energy away from non-essential systems in order to fend off a lion attack.

Another way to think of stress is as a set of alarms. If our lion attack alarms are going off all day every day, our system doesn’t put energy toward long term health and wellbeing. The tools of stress management allow us to turn down the volume of the alarms and counter the signals of chronic stress. Through mindfulness exercises and daily physical practice, we are able to access the nervous system in a way that changes our physical, mental, and emotional states.

Because the effects of chronic stress build on themselves, layer by layer, over time, stress management can have profound effects. Physical discomforts, mental health impacts, and emotional resilience can all see positive results. Even if an issue is not caused by stress effects specifically, it is often made worse or heals slower because of the effects of chronic stress. Turning down the stress alarms frees up energy for the body to heal itself.

Stress management is key to our overall health and wellbeing, because chronic stress has comprehensive effects on our body and mind. Creating a sense of calm safety on a daily basis allows our survival-sensitive inner alarms to turn down the volume, which in turn lets our natural healing mechanisms get to work.

What is Walk & Talk Psychotherapy?

Our bodies are made to move, and walking is probably the single activity that brings the most benefits for the whole body. Walk and Talk counseling sessions use the physiological benefits of walking to support mental and emotional health.

A walk and talk session is exactly what it sounds like: you walk outside with your therapist during your counseling session. This can create a more relaxed environment, and sometimes make talking about difficult things easier. You set the pace, from a slow, meditative walk to an active, high energy session.

Walk and talk sessions can help get things moving, both literally and figuratively. They are a great fit for when you are going through a life transition, experiencing loss or grief, feeling challenged, or experiencing anxiety. The physical rhythm of walking becomes meditative, calming the nervous system and supporting emotional health.

On a physical level, walking outside while working with mental and emotional health topics reduces anxiety and stress and improves overall mood. The activity can reduce depressive symptoms, and being outside supports feelings of grounding and release. Not being face to face for the counseling session can also create more ease for processing on some topics.

Activity in general, like walking, also increases creativity, self-awareness, and emotional awareness. This means that walk and talk sessions can boost positive therapy outcomes. The movement improves blood flow to the brain, and one theory suggests that walking decreases brain activity in the left hemisphere and opens the way for creative insights in the right hemisphere.

Walk and Talk psychotherapy helps to integrate body and mind for the greater support of overall health. At Ha.Lé, our psychotherapists are happy to conduct sessions in a cozy office or while walking quiet residential streets, and you can decide as you go what the best option is for you.

Mindful Yoga is a Treatment for the Whole Self

Yoga, at its heart, is therapeutic. It is an ancient system of connecting the mind and body so that they move together and support health and vitality. Though it is popular to use yoga as a means to fitness goals, that is a narrow interpretation of a comprehensive system of health and treatment.

Yoga is a form of mindfulness practice, cultivating awareness from within the body. By bringing attention to the breath and alignment, it trains and conditions the mind. This has been shown to help improve cognitive function, boost memory, and reduce baseline stress levels.

In many ways, gentle yoga is the most advanced yoga. Without fast pacing or high physical challenge to occupy the mind, your attention is able to turn to the wealth of information percolating up from within the body: the exact angle of knee bend that begins to make an old injury ache; a perpetual knot in your shoulders that brings certain memories to the surface; the joy that comes from releasing tension in the low back. By tuning in to this body wisdom, we are able to better engage with our health and support ourselves.

Slower, more deliberate yoga is therefore able to treat imbalances and address discomfort, often before they become a bigger issue. It supports flexibility, lubricates joints, develops strength, increases balance, and reduces mental, emotional, and physical stress levels. Also, because it does use slower and gentler poses, it is accessible to a wider range of practitioners. Do not mistake it for easy, but know that it creates space for a wide range of bodies, ages, and levels of experience.

At Ha.Lé, our yoga classes are based in mindfulness practice. They are designed as treatments to support health and to continue the care we offer in our appointments. Therapeutic yoga is an effective way to support the whole self, bringing body and mind together to create health.

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